In Brief

Russia, Ukraine in gas feud; EU supplies unaffected MOSCOW/KIEV (Reuters) – Russia accused Ukraine of stealing gas destined for the rest of Europe yesterday, a day after cutting supplies to its neighbor in a contract dispute. The volumes Russian export monopoly Gazprom said Ukraine was siphoning off were small but the accusation suggested Moscow was in no mood for compromise in a rerun of a 2006 argument that led to supply shortages across the European Union. Gazprom said it was responding to Ukraine’s actions by increasing exports via alternative routes. Energy companies in Europe said they had not felt any disruptions to their supplies since the cutoff. «The Ukrainian side openly admits it is stealing gas and is not ashamed of this,» Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said. The EU – which receives a fifth of its gas via pipelines through Ukraine – said it considered the row between Moscow and Kiev to be a bilateral issue and would not step in unless supplies to Europe started to suffer. The row could raise new doubts about Moscow’s reliability as an energy supplier and fuel suspicions in the West – already running high since Russia’s war with Georgia last August – that the Kremlin bullies its pro-Western neighbors. Energy firms in Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey said yesterday their supplies were unaffected, echoing importers in most European countries, who earlier reported they had not seen any drop in deliveries. Cypriot December inflation sinks to 2.1 pct on oil slide NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus’s consumer price inflation dropped to 2.1 percent year-on-year in December from 3.4 percent a month earlier, helped by a sharp drop in fuel costs, statistics department data showed yesterday. The December figure was the lowest year-on-year figure recorded for 2008, but midyear inflationary highs pushed the tracker to 4.7 percent for the entire year, the statistics department said. Consumer price inflation was running at 2.4 percent for the whole of 2007. Falls in clothing and footwear costs also contributed to the drop in price growth. On a monthly basis, the CPI tracker fell by 0.98 percent. Bulgaria budget Bulgaria’s budget surplus was 4.598 billion levs at end-November, or 7.1 percent of estimated annual gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008, the Finance Ministry said, showing Sofia was on track to meet its fiscal goals. That compares with a surplus of 3.959 billion levs in the same period in 2007 and the government’s goal of ending the year with a surplus of 3.5 percent of GDP to ensure Bulgaria has a fiscal buffer to withstand global financial turmoil. The surplus was lower than the 5.039 billion levs registered at end-October as the Socialist-led cabinet started spending a planned 1.2 billion levs on the poor and retired and on infrastructure projects. The surplus is likely to shrink further at end-December. (Reuters) IMF visit A team of International Monetary Fund (IMF) experts will visit Turkey on Thursday to discuss a possible lending accord to support the country’s economy against the global economic crisis, the Turkish Treasury said yesterday. The delegation will be led by the fund’s Turkey desk chief Rachel van Elkan, the Treasury said in an e-mailed statement today. The government on December 25 cut its 2009 spending plans by 3.1 billion liras ($2 billion) as the country tries to secure IMF lending. (Bloomberg)

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